Like many hikers I used to be a fan of commercially available freeze dried meal packs(we call them dehy.’s) sold in outdoors stores, that was until I discovered the advantages of drying my own hiking food at home.
The drying wind of change…
Having brought a second hand food dehydrator some months before for a different project, I started looking more seriously at making my own hiking meals, and quickly discovered there were just to many advantages over the commercial products, including;
- The dried meals where even lighter then freeze dried meals! (the average single serve weight of the brand I favoured was 90gms, while my dried single serves are only 45gms dry!)
- While they may look a little unappetising reconstituted, the flavour, texture and cooking smell is great ( much to the disgust of others near by eating standard dehydrated packs)
- Require much smaller amount of water to reconstitute then freeze dry’s..
- Most can be edible in an emergency by soaking in cold water, Some i have come to like in the dried form. (humus)
- No where near as expensive… you can make meals for the drier or just try left overs)
The only disadvantage I have found, is the shorter shelf life compared to freeze drying.. but then none of my trips are that long! 🙂
My food drying Method
So far I have only dried meat free meals, simply because they require no extra preparation for drying so I can use leftovers from normal meals. (drying meals containing meat, requires cutting it really small to ensure it reconstitutes evenly.)
What I use;
- A good quality digital electronic scale
- Food dehydrator (I use the New Zealand made Ezidri Snackmaker) and solid sheet inserts
- 500ml Glad plastic storage container.
- Drink Mug
- Re seal able plastic bags(I use snap lock bags 15 x 9cm)
- 100ml measure ( graduated @ 10mls) or 50ml syringe
- Mortar and pestle
- Fine tip marker pen: permanent
- Note pad
- Tare the scale to a container and measure out my preferred serving size.(250gm’s)(measure a minimum of two servings if testing a meal for the first time.)
- Note the weight of the serving on the note pad as the “wet weight”
- Spread the meal over the solid sheet in a drying tray as thin as it will go.
- Put the drier on to the meal setting (high on mine) and come back the next day(way longer then the manual says but its just easier)
- Turn off the drier and let it cool, then move the dried meal into a bowel, if its sharp and crispy I sometimes break it up with a pestle.
- Stand up a zip lock bag in a mug and tare the scale to their weight, pour in the dried meal and obtain the “dry weight.”
- Subtract the Dry weight from the Wet weight, and the answer is the weight of water removed.(WR)
- Given 1 litre of water = 1 kg, I convert the WR directly to the ml’s required for reconstitution.
(If I am just testing a meal right away, then I replace step 6 with a small dinner bowel.)
To Test a new Meal
- Boil the jug and measure the exact measure of hot water to match the WR, stir into dried meal, cover and wait 5 -10 minutes.
- Taste it .. is it a good consistency and edible?
There are some meals that only need the exact measure added back to be fully edible – any more and they become a swamp! ( Hummus is great example)
- If there are still dried lumps in the meal, then added 100mls of water and bring to the boil stirring.
- Taste it again after a couple of minutes(before it burns!) at a consistency that you find favourable, if all the dried bits have gone then you can note the WR to 1-200ml (non precise)
Check out some of my favourites and future success, that have survived the drier and come back just as yummy every time.
Once dried I store every thing in the freezer, in the individual zip lock bags marked with the item information;
- Food name
- Wet and Dry weight – so I can calculate the water required (WR)
- Date dried
When a hike comes up, I Vacuum pack(*1) the portions on the menu, transferring the item information to the pack.
Food that dries with sharp edges I usually either grind down with a rolling-pin or slip in baking paper insert folded to hold the food, inside the plastic vacuum bag.
My food Tests
I would love to hear your own adventures in drying (post comments) you can see mine in my post Food successfully Dried
Do please share your drying adventures:-)
(*1) I got my current Vacuum packer is the Adman food sealer available in New Zealand, which does a great job with a very low fail rate when set up right – although only seals clear plastic bags designed for the sealer. Since then (typical lol) I have directed to far more serious food sealer’s available in New Zealand.